As I mentioned on Thursday, I was invited to attend a launch party for the brand new FiND iT FREDERiCK Magazine website this last Friday. I did indeed attend, and here is my overall view of the experience, as promised.
It's significant because I don't go to many of these sort of things. Not simply because I am not often invited, but also because, as you know, I am Too XYZ to work the room as many would. I don't mingle or schmooze. Small talk really eats it in my world. I prefer substantive conversation right away. I know in this, I am in the minority, but that is what makes all of this so interesting.
What also makes it interesting is that this was the first such affair I have attended since the dawn of my intentional foray into social media "relevance." (I laughed, so it's okay if you did too.) So I wanted to reflect here on how the last year and a half or so of direct exposure to online networking, tips, and "social media ninjas" may have played into my enjoyment of the party. The short answer is, I am no more likely to do what networking and social gurus suggest than I would have been 4 years ago. But I am more comfortable with my own style and approach to such things, (is that my personal brand crap??). And for the first time I didn't beat myself up for not being something else at a party.
I was also amused at how often my social media friends entered my mind in the lead up to and attendance of this event. More on that in a bit.
Awkward I am not. Nor do I suffer social anxiety. I am not particularly shy, and I don't lack self-esteem any more than the average person at any given moment. I like parties, music, food and revelry as much as the next fellow, (though I prefer to have more friends than strangers in a group) But whereas at one point in my life I would have tried to deduce what it was about me that prevented me from tearing the roof off the sucker at an event like Friday, I am now more willing to experience the semi-detached amusement that results in such activities, and the subtle bewilderment with what it all means, or what others say it should mean. In this, I confess to feeling a tad like my friend J. Maureen Henderson. She shares that social bemusement and CW skepticism. At least based on some of her Tweets and blogs about similar events she has authored.
Anyway, at long last, the night itself. I consider it a success for both the magazine overall as well as me on a personal level.
To begin with it was quite the affair. Actually, it was a "bash". I haven't often been to anything that could truly be called a "bash", but this was certainly an example. Food, drink, music, even a dance troop to entertain. 200 or so people including city council people, local entertainment movers, restaurateurs, writers, and other entrepreneurs of the area. I did in fact recognize several people from local news events and other such things.
I didn't talk to any of them.
Because this was still, after all a huge party full of mostly strangers. And I am still me, and I do not enjoy schmoozing. Even with important people. If all I have to say is how great the party is, or that I saw them in the newspaper recently, I have in fact nothing to say. And nothing bugs me more than being approached by someone who clearly has nothing to say. So I thought to myself, "yet another party I won't be long for leaving." There is only so much standing around looking at the art on the walls while trying to look approachable that one can do.
I recognize that if I did have something to say, or didn't mind walking around spewing mindless extroverted jabber, I'd make more connections. In theory at least.When I first entered in fact, I thought of how much Jamie Nacht Farrell would love such a set up; she almost certainly would have scored some major business deals for herself by the end of the night. I can hear her lightly scolding me for not introducing myself to all of the VIPs that were in attendance. But as she, and most of you know, that is not me. So it didn't happen.
Thankfully it was less than ten minutes later when a friend of mine, whom I knew would attend, arrived. And though I was back and forth throughout the evening, at least giving the illusion that I was a mover, (without actually talking to anybody), I spent most of the party at a table with him and his girlfriend. And had a nice time.
This is how I operate. Contrary to how many would do it, I try to be a calm presence. Some would say a boring one. But one that can be approached should anyone desire to do so. As in I move about a lot, I face the crowd. I look about and smile at nothing. All so those that desire can feel safe in coming up to me.
Name tags are a wonderful thing, too. And indeed it was because of my name tag that the editor of the magazine, with whom I have communicated for over a year but have never met, located me.
As did several fellow writers for the magazine. In each case I had read their work, and they mine, but we had not met until that moment. (Again, my props to brightly colored name tags.) And when those people did locate me, thanks to my highly recognizable name. We spoke of our writing goals, how we started and other such things. And this will make many of you smile, but I did come prepared with my business cards, which I did hand out to each of those people. (Okay, three people. But they were there!) I had hoped to have my new business cards ready by that night, but I had to settle for the still accurate but older ones. The new ones will have my virtual business card address on them. These did not. But I digress.
During these conversations with fellow writers, I had a lot more to say, and a lot more to ask than I would have had with random people. Why? Because they understood the introvert's paradise of starting a conversation with a specific topic in mind right after the introductions. We talked about how and why we wrote. The party and the setting and other such things did come into play later, but there was no small talk as most people define it. I was approached because of something I wrote, and spoke about writing. And it didn't bother me a bit. And now I know three more people.
(See, extroverts? It can work that way.)
At one point a seemingly impromptu, (but in fact planned) dance number broke out. Yes, you read that properly. A local dance troupe, known as the Equinox Dance Company was in attendance, and at one point began a dance in the middle of the ballroom.
Now let me risk tomatoes here by saying that I find most modern dance to be ever so slightly pretentious. I don't doubt the skill required to perform dance well, but much of the modern dance I have encountered just seems to have an aura of being more important than I could ever hope to be. But not this time. I still don't know anything about dance, but for a change I could enjoy what I was watching, because it didn't seem out of place with the event. I don't know if "accessible" is the word, but their routine didn't put me off, or put me out with an over the head blow with a wrench marked "Art!". It was just people dancing, and dancing well. At least that night they appeared to approach dance in the same minimalist, visceral way I approach theatre.
I almost complimented them in person. But I did not. Impressed as I was, I wasn't about to chase them down to say anything. Not that I never go out of my way to approach such people. Indeed some of the few times I go against the grain and introduce myself to strangers are when they have performed something I enjoyed. And had they been on stage, and come down to talk to people later, I might have done just that. May have even used our mutual connection to the arts to make a few new friends. Yet what can I say? That's not what happened.
Yet some people would have taken that social opportunity. The whole aftermath of the dance group reminded me of yet another friend of mine from online, Laryssa Wirstiuk. Not that she is in a dance troupe, and she may be amused by the mental connection. But the evening seemed very much like a Laryssa sort of event. And not in the same way it was a Jamie sort of event. Jamie would have seen it as a career advancement and reputation boosting networking dream come true. Laryssa on the other hand would have immersed herself in the social style of the event.
From what I have gathered Miss.Wirstiuk, she one of those that tends to thrive socially at such events. I can enjoy such events, but she can use them to enhance her own presence. I am thinking Laryssa would have nine times out of ten sought out the members of the dance group and with her brand of contagious enthusiasm mentioned how much she enjoyed the performance. And come away with five new friends. She probably would have tried to get me to do the same. But social butterfly, I am not.
Yet the essence of what impressed me about Equinox was the dance, anyway. And because the company is so well marketed, I was able to find them online, and send them an email expressing my appreciation for the dance itself. And you know what? I feel okay with that. I didn't have to let myself be moved by modern dance, but I did, and I mentioned it to those connected with it. Not bad.
Later, I saw a guy I interviewed for my most recent piece. I did go out of my way to talk to him for a moment. Unlike one or two other people in the room, I only talked to him a few weeks ago, and had it would have been rude to not speak. I am glad to report he is pleased with the piece, and that it captured exactly what he wanted about the subject of motocross. Being an introverted writer, that was one of the highlights of the evening for me, to be honest. (Though free beer was a close second.)
In the end, I am glad that I went. Despite the fact that I hate small talk, do not often introduce myself to strangers without a specific agenda, and usually prefer music that is not quite so loud, I would go to this event again. Ten years ago I would not have gone at all. Five years ago I would have gone, and not enjoyed it as much. And I think the key to that evolution is the same key to all of my sometimes glacial and hard to detect but nonetheless real progress in my career and presence; I did it the way I chose to do it.
I didn't follow the gurus of elbow rubbing and back scratching that infest the internet, and as a result I will not get as far and as fast as some. But I get somewhere. I don't have the kind of exuberant blast that many people do at such parties, but I do find modest enjoyment. I cruise where others my soar. But that's only because I am Too XYZ to try to soar like everyone else does. I am rally good at soaring in other circumstances. And that knowledge made the launch party a good time for me.
The excellent crab dip alone, however, would have been worth the trip.